Organizations Are Allowing Employees to Stay Remote Permanently

Seven months since the start pandemic, many companies, like Microsoft, announced that they will allow more of their employees to work from home permanently. For Microsoft, the expected reopening date of their offices is January 2021 at the earliest. But with a pandemic, it’s hard to predict when offices will be fully opened.

As for Microsoft, their new work-from-home guidance allows for a “hybrid workplace” to allow for flexibility for employees once US offices do reopen.

The guidance allows employees to work from home for less than 50 percent of their work week, or to get manager-approval to work remotely permanently. If employees request the permanent work-from-home option, they give up their assigned office space with an option to have a touchdown space at the offices. Employees are also allowed flexible working hours without manager approval.

However, there were a few roles identified that would need office access, like those that require access to hardware labs, data centers, and in-person training.

The move to remote work is far less risky for Microsoft than small- to mid-sized businesses. Microsoft has the tools and capabilities to protect its data no matter the location of its employees. Many companies didn’t invest in this type of protection because it wasn’t needed prior to the pandemic.

In order to sustain a long-term remote solution, companies need to invest in data protection and security.

What should you consider when it comes to data protection?

Data breaches can happen in several different ways. An employee could lose their laptop, or your organization could be targeted by ransomware, or data could be left on a former employee’s personal device. The pandemic has created new opportunities for data breaches and ransomware hackers have been using the COVID-19 crisis as a hook in phishing attacks. In order to protect your data, consider the following:

  • Be cautious of employees using their own devices. When an employee uses their own device, they could be storing critical data locally creating an enormous risk. Without proper policies, this becomes an issue when employees are fired or resign. Disputes over what data/information is company-owned may compromise the protection of intellectual property. You can use applications to monitor data transfers to help minimize the risk of data “theft.”
  • Consider cloud-based content storage. One way to avoid any issues with data is to only allow access to it via cloud storage. The storage must then have the capabilities to allow editing, changing, and sharing.
  • Have a contingency plan for device threat or loss. Employees are human and there is a potential they could lose their device with sensitive information on it. You should ensure there is a way to track or delete the data on the device.
  • Buy a paid password system. Paid password systems ensure all employees have secure passwords. Pay for an account that all employees can use and require all company-related passwords to be created through the system.
  • Consider two-factor authentication. For SharePoint sites, websites, or any location that stores sensitive information, set up two-factor authentication. This keeps data stored in those locations safe.

These are some of the top considerations for keeping your data safe with a remote workforce. While many companies, like Microsoft, are weighing the best options for their employees, what’s clear is that remote work in some capacity is here to stay.

Investing in infrastructure and applications that help support your employees is important. Protecting your company’s data against breaches is crucial. No matter the size of your organization or your work-from-home strategy, consider investing in long-term solutions to optimize your workforce as they navigate a pandemic.

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